USC’s season has been something of a rollercoaster, even by USC standards. Not only was head coach Clay Helton fired two games into the season after an unsightly loss to Stanford, but a string of injuries have already decimated the Trojan’s depth at quarterback.
Junior Kedon Slovis (6’3”, 205 lbs) started the season behind center before a brutal sack on their first offensive drive against Washington State knocked him out, being replaced by true freshman and Utah native Jaxson Dart (6’3”, 215 lbs) for the remainder of USC 45-14 win over the Cougars. Unfortunately, a leg injury in the second quarter was later revealed to be a meniscus tear that required surgery, leaving the highly touted youngster sidelined, and Slovis forced back into game action for their 45-27 loss to Oregon State the following week. Currently, it looks to be Slovis who will handle the majority of passes for the Trojans, as Dart is still recovering from surgery. This should bode well for a Utah defense that came away with three interceptions and a whopping eight sacks in their last outing before the bye week, seeing how the Trojan offense seemingly clicked more efficiently with Dart calling the shots, a sentiment Utah fans should be familiar with themselves this season.
Slovis has been efficient, especially in 2021 where he currently holds a 64.6% completion rate, accounting for 1,118 passing yards, seven touchdowns, and four interceptions. Far from an effective scrambler, his running ability is far worse than Dart’s, which may account for the inexplicable spark Dart provided USC’s struggling offense. As productive as Slovis is, he lacks the electrifying playmaking ability one would expect out of a USC quarterback.
Downfield, Solvis’s favorite target, junior Drake London (6’5”, 210 lbs) will have any potential NFL scouts in attendance drooling. Claiming 48 of the Trojan’s 132 catches this season, London has already gained 670 yards with four TDs on the season. His size and athleticism make for a coverage nightmare but solidifies London as one of the most obvious NFL-ready talents anywhere on the field come Saturday night.
On the ground, a pair of senior running backs in Keaontay Ingram (6’0”, 215 lbs) and Vavae Malepeai (6’0”, 220 lbs) will likely split reps as they have all season, with Ingram leading the duo with 349 yards on 60 carries while Malepeai gaining 216 yards though his first 52 touches.
It should come as no surprise that USC undoubtedly fields some incredible talent. Even at their worst, USC’s roster would be enough to make anyone except Nick Saban himself green with envy, but as has often been the case for USC since the conference expanded to 12 teams, the talent on the field doesn't mean much without the right coaching, and interim head coach Donte Williams thus far looks like a little fish in a big sea. He’s yet to string together the kind of performance that would lead anyone to believe he’s ready to drop the interim tag from his title, and the Trojan’s season is likely a bust already with little to no hope of a New Years Six bid, let alone a conference championship. As -3 point favorites, don’t be surprised if USC put the Utes away in yet another tight slugfest in LA, but Utah has every chance to take advantage of a seemingly deflated Trojans squad and officially turn their season around.